Georgia had its largest margin of victory in any game since the 1998 opener, a 56-3 win over Kent State.
Despite the absence of top receiver A.J. Green, Georgia Bulldogs quarterback, Aaron Murray, passed for three touchdowns and ran for another in leading No. 23 Georgia to a 55-7 victory over the Louisiana-Lafayette Rajun Cajuns on Saturday.
Murray was mobile , accurate, and poised.
After some opening game jitters, the Bulldogs steamrolled their opponent.
Murray ran four times for 41 yards. On a 16-yard run down the right sideline near the end of the first half, he reached out to hold the ball inside the front pylon for a 31-7 halftime lead.
I know that Coach Mark Richt was concerned about Murray running like that versus SEC competition and getting hurt, and Richt’s analysis and opinion is much more highly qualified than mine, but I thought Murray made the right decision for the particular situation and opponent, as he ran purposefully, not randomly.
Georgia unveiled its 3-4 setup under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and had three sacks for minus-18 yards and nine tackles for minus-26 yards.
The Bulldogs new 3-4 defense was quick and nasty. It was great to witness both Grantham and the defensive players play with intensity, aggressiveness, and enthusiasm.
UGA’s defense reacted to the ball very well as evidenced by their relentless pursuit of the ball and gang tackling.
The defense forced three interceptions , more than the Bulldogs had in any game last season, including one returned 17 yards for a touchdown by safety Jakar Hamilton.
My initial analysis of UGA’s new defense is that it’s a NFL-caliber type of defense, not in terms of talent, but in terms of scheme, philosophy, and coaching. I thought Georgia deployed purposeful, timely blitzes very well.
Junior placekicker Blair Walsh booted a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter to give Georgia a 17-0 lead. Walsh is now 7-for-11 from 50+ yards in his career. His career long of 53 came in last year’s season opener at #9 Oklahoma State. He connected for his second field goal of the game, a 48 yarder, early in the second quarter. Walsh is now 11-of-12 in his career from 40-49 yards.
Drew Butler had a 46.7-yard average per punt with three inside the 20 and two touchbacks.
But Georgia gave up a 46-yard return on the opening kickoff. The Bulldogs also gave Louisiana-Lafayette a free first down by running into the punter.
Branden Smith became the first Bulldog to start on three different units since Champ Bailey did it 12 years ago. Smith took the first snap on offense, defense, and on special teams in the Bulldogs' 55-7 win against Louisiana-Lafayette at Sanford Stadium.
Hutson Mason threw a 26-yard touchdown to Logan Gray to become one of the few players in NCAA FBS Subdivision history to throw a touchdown on the first attempt of their career.
It was also Gray's first touchdown reception of his career. The NCAA has only recorded eight instances when a player threw a touchdown pass on his first attempt. The first instance was Oklahoma running back Steve Owens in 1968. The last time was Oklahoma State's Keith Toston in the Cotton Bowl last January.
Both Murray and Mason came across to me as better quarterbacks than Joe Cox. Oops.
The Bulldogs got everything they wanted from an opener of which Green, Washaun Ealey, and Tavarres King did not play.
Green, a junior All-Southeastern Conference first-team selection last year, observed the game from the sidelines as Georgia waits on an NCAA ruling to clarify his playing status.
The Bulldogs did not announce that Green would miss the game until a few hours before kickoff. The NCAA is investigating if he was one of several players from different schools to attend a party hosted by a sports agent in Miami. Green said he has never been to Miami.
Georgia (1-0, 0-0 SEC) travels to Columbia, S.C., to face South Carolina (1-0, 0-0) on Saturday, Sept. 11 at noon on ESPN. The Gamecocks downed Southern Mississippi 41-13 in Columbia on Thursday night. Georgia leads the all-time series 46-14-2 and has won seven of the last nine games.
After being tested by tougher SEC competition, I will revisit my analysis. However, Steve Spurrier’s offense next week will provide our first authentic test. What is Spurrier’s coaching record or history versus 3-4 defenses?